With suitcases and PCS orders in hand, many of us will be spending our summer nights trying to keep ourselves and the kids entertained, be it a movie night or at the hotel pool.
The normally easy chore of figuring out what to eat, however, often becomes a debate over which fast-food joint or sit-down restaurant to dine in. But for those of us watching our budgets and our waistlines, what we wouldn’t give for a wholesome, healthy home-cooked meal.
What if I told you it was possible to save money and still eat healthy, even without the convenience of a full kitchen?
Keep the family fed and content while living in a hotel?
You can do it. Here’s how.
Assemble Your Make-Shift Kitchen
First, a little preparation is necessary. If you know that you’ll be away from home and want to try to avoid eating out every night, consider buying or bringing an electric griddle and crockpot. Between the two of them, you can cook just about anything.
You’ll also need a large tote that you can push under the bed or store in a closet as your make-shift pantry. Stock it with non-perishable must-have items like cereal, a handful of your favorite spices (we like garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper), a box of your favorite baking mix, a couple cans of cream-of-something soup, canned beans and other vegetables, your favorite sweetener (sugar, stevia or maple syrup) and olive oil.
Toss in a good kitchen knife, a couple of wooden spoons, some resealable kitchen bags and a cutting board, and you’re all set.
Bonus points if you have a small blender or food processor (like a Ninja) and can manage to bring it along. It can make things like homemade salad dressing, salsa, smoothies or even a margarita.
Bonus tip: If you do stop for a quick bite to eat here and there, consider keeping any unused condiment packets. They come in handy and generally don’t require refrigeration.
Plan Your Meals
This is kind of an eat-at-home staple chore, but if you’ve decided to choose homemade while traveling, it’s even more important. The key is planning meals that won’t require a lot of refrigerated ingredients. Even still, be prepared to shop every few days, if not daily.
Not sure what to plan? Here are some easy, no-cook recipes to inspire you.
If you have access to a refrigerator, a half-gallon of milk and a wholesome, vitamin-packed cereal can make breakfast a snap. Pair it with a banana and half of an English muffin with a bit of peanut butter and you’ve got the kind of balanced breakfast all the cereal commercials boast about.
No refrigerator? Consider buying the small, vacuum-sealed boxes of milk or powdered milk from the baking aisle. The small quantity of each box makes it easy to only use what you need.
Not a cereal person? Go continental. A couple of fresh-baked bagels or croissants, a little hard cheese and fruit makes for the perfect morning meal.
Wants something a little more special? Try some overnight oats. Just mix equal parts of oats and milk or yogurt. Then add fruit, spice and sweetener: add pumpkin puree, a drizzle of maple syrup and a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice (like this recipe) or try slicing in bananas and a couple of tablespoons of hazelnut spread. Mix the ingredients in a cup or bowl and leave in the refrigerator overnight (6 to 8 hours) and presto-chango, you’ve got a hearty, healthy and delicious breakfast with absolutely zero cooking!
Simple Entrees That You Can Prepare in Your Hotel Room
If you’re anything like me, warmer temperatures bring the desire to eat light. Thankfully, lighter fare lends itself to easy preparation.
If you have your electric griddle, try cooking up a couple of chicken breasts (or purchase a rotisserie chicken), dice it up and toss it in a bowl with a chopped head of broccoli, some sunflower seeds and a handful of sliced grapes. Add a little bit of sour cream, yogurt or mayo and you’ve got a delicious chicken salad that goes great on a sandwich or is perfect for topping your favorite crackers.
Are you a seafood lover? Fresh seafood is what summer is all about at my house. Fresh fish or shrimp is quick to cook or you can even drop it in a resealable bag with some citrus juice and spices. Cooking is not required. Check out this recipe for no-cook shrimp, Mediterranean style.
Easier still, skip the meat and look to beans for your protein like in this delicious Southwest Salad. Just chop, toss and dig in.